May 12, 2015 Post By: Children's Health

Avoiding Chikungunya Virus: How to Keep Mosquitoes Away
The Infectious Disease experts at Children's Health Dallas share tips about how to avoid the Chikungunya virus by keeping mosquitoes away.

You may have heard of West Nile virus, which is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, but you may not have heard of Chikungunya (pronounced chik-en-GUN-ye) which also is a mosquito-borne virus. While outbreaks of Chikungunya have been confined mainly to Africa and India, it has now made its way across the ocean to the Caribbean. Travelers have brought it back to the states, with cases of Chikungunya now showing up in more than half of the U.S. Chikungunya may even have an impact on the baseball season.

Chikungunya Causes Painful, Flu-Like Symptoms

Chikungunya symptoms include fever and severe joint pain, especially in the fingers, wrists and legs. Some adults have said it felt like a rapid and severe onset of arthritis. If infected, you or your child might have

  • A headache
  • Fever and body aches
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • A rash

Most people feel better in about a week, but frighteningly – especially in the case of children – a few may have joint pain that lingers for months or even longer. A Centers for Disease Control report warns that Chikungunya might also trigger central nervous system infections in children. Some of the youngest children who have gotten the virus overseas have developed seizures. Doctors say Chikungunya can be extremely pain, so if your child is complaining of very bad headaches or an aching body, it could be flu – or this new-to-the-U.S. virus.

Protecting Your Family From Mosquito Bites

Mug Shots(D090212R): Jeffrey Kahn(UTSW, Infectious Disease, Division Director).
Jeffrey Kahn, M.D., Director of Infectious Disease at Children’s Medical Center Dallas

According to Jeffrey Kahn, M.D., Director of Infectious Disease at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, prevention is the best way to protect your family and yourselves against mosquito-borne infections. “Prevention is particularly true if you’re traveling to areas of the world where Chikungunya and other viruses are endemic, such as the Caribbean,” says Dr. Kahn. “With the presence of West Nile in north Texas, precautions should be in place here, too.” Follow these tried-and-true tips – and make sure your kids follow them, too:

  • Wear insect repellent outside.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants, especially at dusk when mosquitoes are more active.
  • Consider keeping your children indoors once mosquito activity picks up toward the end of the day.
  • Make sure there is no standing water around your home, and change water in birdbaths, fountains and wading pools at least every few days.
  • When traveling, stay in places with air conditioning, or at least those that use window and door screens.

The CDC doesn’t expect to see widespread cases of Chikungunya in the U.S. – at least not yet – though travelers from overseas may continue to bring the virus back. State departments of health and the CDC are monitoring the number of locally acquired cases in the U.S. and focusing on limiting the mosquito population and educating people about personal and household protection against mosquito bites. Leave us a comment to tell us how you keep mosquitoes away from your family.